Phil's Travels - Olympic Stadium + Dead, London (10.15)
Phil's Travels - Olympic Stadium & Day of the Dead Weekend, London (10.15)
For the last six weeks, the world's toughest lads have been beating six-bells out of each other in their struggle to win the diminutive Webb Ellis Trophy, otherwise known as the Rugby World Cup (the world's third largest sporting event, after the Olympics and Football World Cup). For such big men, why do they have such a small trophy? It seems out of kilter with the more manly-sized FA or UEFA Cups for those more lady-like soccer players.
Last weekend we were fortunate enough to secure some tickets to the third-place play-off, between the rugby titans of South Africa and surprise package Argentina. The match was played at the all new Olympic Stadium, even newer than when it was new in 2012. For a stadium that was originally designed to be easily downsized and converted to a football stadium, the time and cost it has taken to convert must surely beg the question - was it worth it? £537m to build for 2012 taking 4 years, plus £272m to convert and a further 3 years = total cost £809m, nearly 13,500x more than the 1908 London Olympic Stadium in White City (costing a grand total of £60,000 in its day). Why not build the original for less knowing you are going to knock it down and start over anyway, or just design fit for conversion purposes from the start? Has it been a case of government indecision, or just poor original design? One of our guests was an architect and he could not figure it out.
Whatever the cause, the field of play seemed to be somewhat off-centre and we were on the fat side, set far back from the pitch. The distance from our stand to the pitch appeared to have been lengthened by huge voids dividing the lower and upper stands. Despite the lack of proximity to the pitch, the stadium feels open and offers clear lines of sight. However, the atmosphere generated within seems lacking, perhaps because of the huge spaces created by the voids or perhaps because it was a third-place play-off. Thus before I can give a full and final opinion I need to revisit for a final of something highly popular. All invitations will be considered.
On this the weekend of the Day of the Dead (a Mexican national holiday that was moved to coincide with Halloween), there was an uncanny number of coincidences relating to the subject:
- Argentina were dead and buried by the Spring Boks throughout 79 minutes of the third-place play-off when incredibly the Pumas scored a wonderful try and were resurrected as one of the great teams of the tournament, and they certainly had the liveliest fan base. "Ole, Ole-Ole-Ole Pumas!"
- In the final, Australia briefly showed signs of life during their final thrashing by the immortal All Blacks, surely the best sports team in the world today.
- Surprisingly, Liverpool beat Chelsea 3-1 at the Bridge no less and showed that there is life in the old Red Men yet. Perhaps such rise of "Klop from the Kop" presages the demise of Senor Mourinho (a special one walking in dead man's shoes?).
- On Halloween night we went as a family to Hampstead to trick-or-treat. We visited many amazing homes, one even bathed in red light and topped with crenulations. One house had two black robed statues by the front door that came to life as a pair of teenagers and scared the living daylights out of our army of undead little girls. Although I was dressed as a scary Dracula, my bus journey in broad daylight to Hampstead drew more stares because of the chocolate cake I was carrying. I mean, how scary would even the real Dracula appear if he happened to board a bus with a tray of cupcakes.
- In Hampstead we had a quick dinner at a well-known Italian eatery, whose founder preaches authentic Italian cooking on TV. I wish he would pay his outlets the odd visit, as the Hampstead venue deserves to be interred for serving the worst spaghetti carbonara this side of the underworld (watery, bland and topped with gritty tasteless grated parmesan - a little like eating a bucket of sandy water).
- I took a couple of hours off the usual household chores on Sunday and saw the latest Bond movie, whose opening scene is a chase in Mexico City with Day of the Dead celebrations as a back-drop. Great movie, with lots of "back-from-the-dead" moments and a death-defying helicopter crash over Big Ben.
- Despite England's embarrassing demise on the rugby union field, there would appear to be plenty of life in England Rugby League, as we beat New Zealand in the first of three tests.
- To close out an incredible Day of the Dead weekend, Sunday saw the first Mexican Grand Prix in 23 years and witnessed a reenergised Rossberg beat Hamilon to the biggest sombrero in F1.